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The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy Hardcover – March 22, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Tooze's economic history of the Third Reich is, in a word, monumental. Lately, social and ideological analyses of Hitler's strategic choices have prevailed; in part because of the volume and complexity of available data, even the most economically savvy historians of World War II have generally provided only fragmentary glimpses of the myriad ways in which economics influenced German rearmament and aggression. As Tooze argues, however, the choices made by the Nazi war machine were as economically driven as they were Hitler driven. The author challenges a number of commonly held assumptions, among them the notion that successful rearmament was caused by the Nazi state's job-creation efforts and the idea that Hitler did not intend to start a continental war in attacking Czechoslovakia. Tooze also addresses the relationship between economics and ideology at Auschwitz. The net result, emerging from more than 800 pages of genuinely readable macroeconomic analysis, is an original and comprehensive thesis that couches the strategic choices of the Third Reich firmly within an increasingly American twentieth century. Originally released to broad acclaim in the UK in 2006, Tooze's tome sets a high bar for the historians of the twenty-first century. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"One of the most important and original books to be published about the Third Reich in the past twenty years. A tour de force."
-Niall Ferguson

"Tooze has produced the most striking history of German strategy in the Second World War that we possess. This is an extraordinary achievement, and it places Adam Tooze in a very select company of historians indeed ... Tooze has given us a masterpiece which will be read, and admired; and it will stimulate others for a long time to come."
-Nicholas Stargardt, History Today

"It is among Adam Tooze''s many virtues, in "The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy," that he can write about such matters with authority, explaining the technicalities of bombers and battleships. Hovering over his chronicle are two extraordinary questions: how Germany managed to last as long as it did before the collapse of 1945 and why, under Hitler, it thought it could achieve supremacy at all."
-Norman Stone, The Wall Street Journal

"Virtually every page of his book contains something new and thought-provoking, making the whole an impressive achievement, in which original research has been combined with critical scrutiny of a vast literature that seems ripe for such a re-examination."
-Michael Burleigh, The Sunday Times (London)

"A magnificent demonstration of the explanatory power of economic history."
-The Times (London)

"Masterful . . . Tooze has added his name to the roll call of top-class scholars of Nazism."
-Financial Times

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (March 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670038261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670038268
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 2.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What does this book say that is different than what has gone before? Heaps. In recent years it has become clear that Germany lost the second world war because the Soviet Union was able to out produce them in the making of armored vehicles. Britain and the United States were able to produce huge numbers more aircraft. The conclusion has been that Hitler's gamble in invading the Soviet Union was the key behind the loss of the war.

What this book suggests is that Germany had lost the war before it invaded the Soviet union and its success up to 1941 had been a lucky break. The author even suggests that Britain alone had some chance of over time developing a preponderance of military force. It also puts paid to what must be now seen as the myth of Munich. Previously it was thought that Britain and France failed to re-arm in time to fight Hitler effectively. What this book shows is that by 1940 Britain and France had armies that were superior in both numbers and equipment. Their navies were vastly superior to Germany's and their air forces at least equal. When France fell, although Britain lost its field army its air force was equivalent to the German in numbers and quality and its Navy vastly superior to anything the Germans and Italians could put to sea. More over the British were able to out produce the Germans in aircraft even prior to the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

The success of the German armies in 1940 was due to the allied command failing to respond to the German strategy. If the allies had been a bit more aggressive they could have fought it out to at least a draw and Germany did not have the resources to fight anything more than a short war.
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Format: Hardcover
Tom Munro's review has an excellent summary of the arguments in the book, so I shan't add to it.

I would encourage students of the Second World War to buy this book. This is a rare book that looks at the war entirely from the economics perspective, resisting the temptation to discuss military matters as many were wont to do. This results in a remarkably clear picture of the homefront picture.

This is important as it helps to address some of the myths of about the Second World War, especially with regards to the German economic performance vis-a-vis the other economies. These myths gave rise to puzzles that were usually not addressed.

For example, if it were true that the Germans lost because they had a smaller economy than the US, the British Empire and the Soviet Union, and the Germans knew this, then why did they launch a war in the first place, not against one, but all of the great economic powers? This was usually explained unsatisfactorily by the 'irrationality' of the Nazis.

As the author demonstrated, there was logic to the madness. The Nazis operated under a flawed assumption about how economics work, and believed that it was only by having a large economy that Germany could compete - and survive as a great power - against the other great powers, especially the United States. Thus, by this logic, Germany had to expand and conquer to build up its economic strength. The more likely war was to become with the US, the more Germany must throw everything into a 'do-or-die' gamble to grab enough economic resources to survive.

This is not a wholly novel argument, but I have never seen it argued so clearly and backed by so much economic and historical data.
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Format: Hardcover
I studied this exact topic (Veimar Germany, the rise of Hitler and then WWII) in high school and have since read extensively on WWII. I would have said I knew most of what there was to know about the subject. Very soon into this book, I realised I was mistaken. "Wages of Destruction" is a real eye opener, and makes for a far more coherent story than you may have seen in TV documentaries or been taught in school.

One thing that bothered me in the usual telling of the WWII story is the motivation behind Germany's aggressive actions, which in the traditional telling of the story begins and ends with "because Hitler was insane". This is a great attempt to look at the 20th century from a German perspective and to explain the strategic logic behind many of Germany's actions during the period; the invasion of France, the treaty with the Soviets, Barbarossa, the concentration camps. All take on a different light when viewed through the lense of grand economic strategy.

The writing is absolutely top notch; fluid and imminently readable. And despite the often dry subject matter, I found I truly couldn't put this book down. There are some dull passages on fiscal policy, and on the personal politics of some of the Nazis, but these often lead on to a hard hitting conclusion.

The author seems a bit too keen to "shatter myths", which grates after a while. Sometimes it felt like you were intruding into a private argument between the author and some other history professor. Struggle on through these passages and you will find a thrilling story.

There are few books I would call essential reading on WWII. This book is one of them. "The Forgotten Soldier" is perhaps another.
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